Positive Feedback – Praise More

“With no feedback, no coaching, there’s just no way to improve.”

Bill Gates

I have worked in businesses where there was no feedback and in others where feedback came only when things went wrong: they were run on confusion and fear. They were going nowhere fast and their people were neither happy nor successful. Yet the power of feedback to improve performance is demonstrable.

Researcher Ayelet Fishbach suggests that positive feedback increases people’s confidence, gives them belief that they can achieve their goals and encourages them to pursue them with more motivation. Even more, a positive feedback loop* can develop, whereby feedback leads to success in one’s goals, which, in turn, feeds satisfaction, leading to higher goal-setting and heightened motivation to achieve more – and so on. The reverse can occur, however, if a person receives only negative feedback.

But there is a potential feedback trap, as Carol Dweck explains fully in her recently updated book Mindset. Feedback should not be about praising a person’s innate intelligence or ability, as this does not foster self-belief; on the contrary, it can lead to complacency and aversion to risk-taking. Consequently, full potential is neither striven for nor achieved. It is, therefore, “curious that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not”. (Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and author). Positive feedback is essential to encourage those who are not succeeding and it can take the form of praising determination and/or appropriate procedure. In failure, this is a very encouraging and constructive form of feedback: praising effort and process leads to a lifelong love of learning, builds resilience and enables greater accomplishments in all areas.

This YouTube clip is a short and effective way to illustrate this positive praise approach –“growth mindset” – Carol Dweck – A Study on Praise and Mindsets.

With so much negativity surrounding us, looking for the positive and celebrating it will help us all be more motivated, more resilient and more productive. So let’s seek out every opportunity to see the good and praise it, in our students, in our staff and in our colleagues – wherever it occurs. Make it about energy, exertion, struggle, progression, development and method. And as a regular accompaniment thank you goes down well too.

Thank you.


*(Ellen Winner 1996).


Rachel is a business & educational psychologist. After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.

Willpower = Achievement?

One in four new year resolutions fail by January 8th.

Despite what we were told, it seems that willpower is not the golden bullet for getting things done we thought. According to research by Professor David Desteno, (professor of psychology at Northeastern University, USA) rather than driving us to achievement, willpower is actually quite toxic, it creates stress and has long-term negative health outcomes. Remember that child who deferred the gratification of eating one marshmallow now, by waiting patiently to be given two? She seems destined not only for higher long- term earnings, but also for a stress-related coronary!


What is the learning from this? Apparently the solution is not to live a life of complete hedonism, living for the moment with no thought for the future; instead it is to be social in our endeavours. This means working as and for a group or team, rather than for your own ends. Why so? It turns out that we are able to defer gratification and dig deep in our reserves much more easily and with much less stress when we do so with feelings of compassion for others and with pride. Doing something in and for the group is actually easier and more successful than following our individual goals. Working together has the natural pay-off of security, which for social beings like us humans, who rely on others for our survival, is a fundamental need. Doing things for others has a reward in and of itself, as well as driving us on.


Whoever your team is, make sure you plan together, and for the good of the whole; this way you will enjoy a much higher probability of success without the emotional grunt work required for solitary pursuits.



The Author

Fran McArthur is a coach, trainer, action learning facilitator and non-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives who lead organisations with a turnover of up to £10 million or less than 100 employees, and who wish to effect positive change, particularly in the environmental sector. She collaborates to help them achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach.

You can contact her at

enquiries@yibp.co.uk  or  07789520205


Ditch Perfectionism – Combat Procrastination

It’s a good thing to set your standards high but just watch out for the potential downside of perfectionism – procrastination. When I was in my mid twenties, I had a tendency to want everything that I did to be perfect, so much so that anxiety about failing to reach that standard sometimes prevented me from actually getting started on anything. I was effectively “paralysed by self-consciousness,” as my therapist put it. It was a very self-limiting thought process and I was very happy to put it behind me. Nowadays I am always eager to learn new things and impatient to start out on new adventures. So how did I get to where I am now?

The first step was to recognise I had a problem ‘perfectionism’ (not an easy admission) and the second was to seek advice. Self-awareness and taking responsibility for my thoughts and actions were key to making my way out of this roundabout of limited beliefs, and the best piece of advice I received during the process was:

“It ‘just doesn’t matter’ Have a go, do your best, learn from it, and press on. At times ‘good enough’ is good enough.”

Here are the key things that keep me on the straight and narrow:
• I don’t shy away for fear of making mistakes: at least I am actually doing stuff and can take the opportunity to learn from the mistakes.
• I avoid negative self-talk and replace it with more positive and helpful statements, such as switching “I have lost” to “I have learnt.”
• When something goes wrong, I try to keep it in proportion by asking myself: “On a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is death) how important is this issue and how important will it be tomorrow, next week, next year?”
• I resist any tendency to become self-absorbed, and I find that helping others is a great way to accomplish this.
• I have learned to laugh about myself!

If you want to learn more from some fine experts, here are links to a TED talk Reshma Saujani’s Teach Girls Bravery Not Perfection and book to read Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.

Finally, some wise words from Seth Godwin:

“Start small, start now. This is much better than, ‘start big, start later.’ One advantage is that you don’t have to start perfect. You can merely start.”



Rachel is a business & educational psychologist.  After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation.  Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field. 

Keep trotting on…

‘Life always begins with one step outside of the comfort zone’ Shannon L Alder

During my workshops, we talk a lot about stepping out of your comfort zone to enable learning and To Be The Best You Can Be and for those of us, particularly, who dare to coach, this process really ought to be ceaseless.  We need to get our fix of ‘new stuff’ by reading, observing, attending and participating in experiences of all kinds, learning and making notes so that we can review, reflect and modify our behaviour.  And although our ‘new stuff’ may be mostly cerebral, it is also worth challenging ourselves physically from time to time.  Physicality may be outside your comfort zone but it has a mental component as well: remember that the most successful athletes get to the top by using minds as well as their bodies.

Last week I found myself in a field in Yorkshire with three other people and a horse called Billy participating in a coaching session.  Heidi – horse lover and founder of Glint – has developed coaching based around interaction with horses, a fun, effective and proven alternative to traditional coaching, therapy and learning.  Being so up close and personal with a horse is certainly outside my comfort zone, but the reward I experienced made it worthwhile.  All the participants agreed that there was no hiding your feelings from Billy – he picked up all our emotions instinctively and used them to gauge us and react accordingly.  It was a wonderfully rich learning experience.

As  I am sure many of you know, it takes bravery to step out of your comfort zone; it can be risky and failure might be part of the process.  But when change becomes a habit it becomes part of your identity – and indeed, part of your workplace team’s identity.  A culture of change and learning is an exciting place to be.

So when did you last step out of your comfort zone?

And a couple of relevant TED talks to check out – Caroline Paul encouraging girls in particular to partake in risky play To Raise Girls Encourage Adventure.  And Richard St John’s top talk Success is a Continuous Journey.


Rachel is a business & educational psychologist.  After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation.  Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field. 

Building Resilient Teams

Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity – VUCA – is an acronym that was adopted by the military back in the 1990s to describe certain conflict situations. However, when I came across it recently, I thought how well it could apply to the lives of many ordinary working people who navigate such conditions daily.

Whether 2017 is more VUCA than other times is questionable but, in the education and business sectors in which I work, leaders perceive that their situations are becoming ever more demanding.   The ones that survive – or thrive, even – are the ones that support, trust and make their teams feel safe despite the ‘scary stuff’ around them.  They retain their best people and attract great new people to join them. The key to their success is that they practice resilience in the face of adversity and are able to inspire that same quality in their teams.  They build resilient teams.

How do they do it? Three resilience-building strategies that I have seen work very well are:

  • Well-being. Check in on yourself and others to ensure that you get enough sleep and exercise. Also, encourage healthy eating: a fruit bowl is a small presence in the room but a BIG sign of intention.
  • Mindfulness. Slow down and take notice of responses; pause long enough to consider alternative actions; steer away from automatic pilot mode. Calmness in thinking and decision-making sets the tone.
  • Sociability. Work with people who share the same values as you and that you enjoy spending time with. Be sure to schedule in down time to play and have fun together.

One of my favourite psychologists, Simon Sinek, talks about great leaders being like great parents – ones  that make you feel safe  – allowing their team to try new things, fail, get support, try again and succeed in the end. Check out his TED talk on the subject.

In addition, Daniel Kahnemann’s bestseller Thinking Fast and Slow is a serious and very powerful proposition: it will change the way you think!


Rachel is a business & educational psychologist. After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.

What Is Action Learning?

Action Learning Sets are one of those concepts that we think we know about, but when we really think about it we are often a bit vague – this in turn suggests that the benefits are also poorly understood. It was with this in mind that I recently ran an Action Learning Set for a mixed group as a demonstration of the value in creating new and deeper thinking among the set members.


The room had its fair share of sceptics, added to which we were in a false situation, in that we effectively had an audience, which does little to engender the safe, trusted space needed for truly creative thinking; but not to be defeated we pressed ahead.

The set was made up of eight volunteers – in my opinion the maximum number for an effective set – facilitated by myself and observed by a further dozen or so people. We sat in a circle with all members able to make eye contact with one another. After agreeing which member of the group would ‘present’ their issue, we listened carefully as the Presenter laid out the facts of their situation as they saw it and the various factors affecting or preventing him from moving forward. Members of the set listened intently and in silence, after around 5 minutes the scene was set and I, the Facilitator, invited any clarification questions, this completed, we went into open questions.


A critical aspect of Action Learning is that it is not advice giving – all questions are open and are in no way ‘leading’. Participants come with a sense of curiosity and an understanding that the right solution is the one the Presenter works out for themselves. As a new group, it was no surprise that they found it difficult to resist giving the benefit of their extensive experience and several times we had to pause and reframe questions to be truly open. Well-timed and short questions usually have the greatest impact, as was the case with this group – we watched the presenter’s facial expressions in response to “and what else?” – the question drew him up short and then he went first into deep thought before a real light bulb moment.


Of-course, Action Learning is not just about thinking things through, the clue is in the name – it’s about taking action. From our short session of thoughtful, open questioning our presenter went away with a number of very practical actions on which he will report back to the group. His reaction – “totally immersive, a powerful way to become unstuck”.


This is a learning experience not just for the Presenter, but also for the whole group. And the naysayers? Everyone declared themselves on-board, with the exception of two, who declared themselves scientists only interested in facts!

For the 90% plus the BENEFITS OF ACTION LEARNING include: –

  • Actionable outcomesHow to grow business
  • Long lasting problem solving competency
  • Enhanced creativity & curiosity
  • New questioning & listening skills
  • Increased resilience/ability to deal with stress
  • Improved leadership
  • Team building
  • Heightened emotional intelligence



If you would like to experience the benefits for yourself, we will, (subject to demand), be running two FREE ACTION LEARNING SETS in Manchester during July and September 2017. If you would like to be involved please drop us a line at enquiries@yibp.co.uk for a chance to be included – first come, first served – good luck.


The full PROCESS, (not all of which is covered above), is made up of a number of steps:

  1. Arriving Round
  2. Bidding
  3. Presenting
  4. Questions
  5. Action
  6. Reflection
  7. Process Review


About the Author: Fran McArthur is an  ILM accredited action learning facilitator, business coach, trainer and no-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives, who lead organisations of up to £10m/100 employees and who wish to effect positive change. She collaborates with them to achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach

Once Upon A Time…

“I have fallen in love with the imagination.  And if you fall in love with the imagination, you understand that it is a free spirit. It will go anywhere, and it can do anything”. Alice Walker

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to travel, have adventures and learn from new experiences. As a child, of course, I could only do so in my imagination, creating stories of my own, listening to other people’s and, pretty soon, reading them. All of these I shared with my imaginary friend. Today I still love the stories that I find everywhere in life and I still share them – though now my audience includes real friends, plus family and clients – old and young.

I was lucky to be encouraged as a child to seek out the stories: they played a vital part in making me who I am, so I am naturally a passionate advocate of story-telling as vital to every child’s education.

Here are five reasons why I think it’s good to gather stories:

  1. To escape temporarily from the everyday and have an adventures in my head
  2. To learn and stimulate my curiosity
  3. To help make some meaning of what is around me and in the world beyond
  4. To change how I see, understand and act
  5. To gain empathy with what others feel about their experiences and keep my humanity compass true

And five reasons to share those stories:

  1. To inspire and excite others
  2. To imagine and create something new
  3. To entertain
  4. To change how others see, understand and take action
  5. To pass on my love of story telling

Put all those reasons together and they might add up to an effective way to improve who, what and where we are.  What stories do you tell and why?

A remarkable story to see and hear is Hyeonseo Lee’ TED talk My escape from North Korea.

Also if you want to read some great stories (not only for girls despite its title) – ‘the real-life fairy tale book so inspiring adults are reading it’ – Bedtime Stories for Rebel Girls.

And Richard Branson’s collection of inspiring storytelling quotes to check out – top ten quotes.



Rachel is a business & educational psychologist.  After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation.  Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field. 

Three Productivity Secrets

Every noon as the clock hands arrive at twelve / I want to tie the two arms together / And walk out of the bank carrying time in bags. – Robert Bly, poet (b. 23 Dec 1926)

Do you ever feel that you would like to steal some extra time so that you could tick off all those things on your ever-growing to-do list?  If so, you will know where Robert Bly is coming from.

There is so much to do in this ‘infinite world’, always more … emails, meetings, things to read, people to meet, things to follow up… more of everything.  Technology allows us to do these things anywhere, at any time.  In some places I’ve worked this is even expected, and being busy all the time is a status symbol.

But do such levels of busyness really boost our productivity; and are they good for our overall wellbeing? Plenty of research indicates negative results on both counts.

So, what can we do about this?  Let me share three productivity secrets which will help:

  1. Prioritise: ask yourself whether you really need to be doing all this stuff. Are you focusing on what is most important to your goals or do you get distracted by minor or irrelevant issues?  Beware the temptation to tackle only what is in your comfort zone – a sure-fire way of not moving forward.  I’ve been using Covey’s time management matrix*for the past couple of years – It’s a tool for separating the importance stuff from the unimportant – and it helps me stay focused


  1. Rhythm: identify and acknowledge your energy peaks and troughs. I know I am a morning person and so I start early and get the important, taxing things done first.  I allow myself some slack down-time later in the day, knowing that I’ve earned it.  Be aware of your alert periods and use them to tackle the big stuff.


  1. Rest: down-time is productive in its own way. It allows space for reflection, renewal and recovery. Physical, goal oriented work-outs don’t count here: rather timeout with a gentle (non-work) read or movie.  Maybe you’ve come across the old saying sometimes I just sit and think. Other times I just sit.  Take some time to accomplish nothing at all.  If you’re not convinced, a great new book by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less will persuade you of the value of including ‘nothing time’ in your schedule

These three secrets work together: because I use Covey’s matrix I know very clearly which tasks are important; I use my energy peaks to achieve these tasks and dedicate my energy lows to time for rest, reflection, renewal and recovery.

Prioritising, working to your natural rhythm and ensuring you get rest leads to shorter, more productive working days – and a happier you. What’s not to like?

*The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Well worth a re-read and a ‘must’ for all libraries – personal and business. It includes the time matrix mentioned above.

And finally, a TED talk to check out during your rest time. I think it’s rather lovely –https://www.ted.com/talks/rives_a_museum_of_4_o_clock_in_the_morning

Rachel is a business & educational psychologist.  After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation.  Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field. 


The Ripple Effect

You would think I’d be the last person to consider meditating. I’m not known for sitting still: I’m an action girl – get up-go-give is my motto – but I was persuaded to stop and think after seeing, first-hand, how a group of sports coaches use a form of daily meditation, to great effect, to enhance their own performance and that of their athletes.  They introduced me to mindfulness via www.headspace.co.uk and now I am hooked.  It has become an essential tool for building my resilience and, if I don’t get my daily fix of 10 minutes of mindfulness, I feel robbed.  Now, following the lead of those coaches, I too like to throw a stone into the pond and watch what happens when the ripple reaches others.  During my coaching and workshop sessions I am frequently asked – why do you meditate? To see the ripples is my answer.

·       Meditation helps by calming me and clarifying my thought process. I slow down – sometimes come to a halt – during meditation and, when I resume action, I find that I have more focused energy to get more done.

·       It’s also contagious: my happiness and optimism infects others.  Mindfulness makes me generally a ‘nicer’ person and this can rub off on others, changing their mood and enhancing their positive outlooks.

·       Experiencing this encourages them, in turn, to help others, and so the ripple spreads to the edge of my pond. From there, I hope, stones are picked up and thrown into other people’s ponds.

If you want to try out a bit of mindfulness – as recommended by me and many others – go to the  website or app www.headspace.co.uk and a couple of other apps stopbreathethink  & smilingmind.  And I’ve had fun and success with teenagers recently using mindful colouring sheets. 

I have also enjoyed and learnt a lot from a couple of books – Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are (Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life) and Martyn Newman’s The Mindfulness Book (Practical Ways to Lead a More Mindful Life).

I love it when things take a life of their own, go viral – in a good way, of course.  Let’s go and start some more ripples.



Rachel is a business & educational psychologist.  After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation.  Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.